The 5 Levels of Cooperation
(or, How to Ruin Your Self-defense
Without Even Trying!)
Part 3: The Error of Wearing Protective Equipment

By Ken Freeman   

"The sensation of body unity becomes obvious only to yourself or the person you are hitting. At this point, the energy is truly internal, and you may seem to hardly move at all. This occurs, for example, when some part of your body (like an elbow) is in contact with your opponent's trunk. Using dropping energy and body unity, you can achieve (with apologies to Bruce Lee's one-inch punch), a no-inch punch, that can either send your attacker flying or cause internal damage."
- Attack Proof
In this section, I will elaborate on the detrimental effects of wearing protective equipment while training for self defense purposes. In addition, I will speak on the Attack Proof demos and explain why the kicks in modified Native American Ground fighting are dramatically different from what you see in competition. The discussion on kicks is somewhat of a counterpoint to this level in the sense that you actually should wear protective equipment if it is indeed a part of your normal activities.
Training with protective equipment such as gloves, headgear, flack jackets, knee pads, shin guards, chest protectors or any other protective devices destroy the ability to develop sensitivity and looseness. If you wear protective equipment, you will never have the ability to properly counterbalance or completely yield your root in response to pressure. This especially holds true in clinching range where hand-eye coordination is entirely too slow.
At times, observing or even practicing the training of KCD can easily lead one to believe that it isn't a fighting system, but some sort of meditative, abstract and flowing way of movement akin to a non-combative form of Tai Chi. Nothing could be further from the truth, as there is always a method to what appears as madness.
When you have to take a person out for real, you have to maintain the process of penetrating their center and taking their balance so that they won't have the ability to get back into the fight. If you take a person's balance, they absolutely can't strike with any real power because the body's proprioceptive system will be preoccupied with regaining it's own equilibrium.

If You Can't Learn to Feel, You Can't Learn to Fight

With equipment you once again inhibit your ability to maintain this process because you can't differentiate between long and short power, which as described in the quote at the beginning of this section is the difference between launching someone away from you or dropping them relatively where they stand. This gives you the ability to eventually fight and control people without killing them or engaging in entanglement. Through many hours of Contact Flow, you begin to develop a subconscious feel for a person's maximum looseness points before their skeletons lock and your strikes begin creating compression force and internal damage against their bones and organs.
The only way to prevent damage or being controlled is by either yielding faster than this happens or stepping to a new root point. This is all about feeling different people's density and motion because everyone moves differently, and to the uninitiated has to be experienced to be fully appreciated. For all the reasons stated, it is paramount that in Contact Flow you always move at relatively the same speed as your training partner. That way, as you progressively move faster and faster, your timing in performing these movements will always be maximally efficient.

Protective Equipment Won't Protect You

The other problem, aside from the fact that equipment inhibits sensitivity development is that going full contact with your training partner, even if a person has on armor will not stop them from withstanding extraordinary injury if the KCD striking power is utilized. That being the case, it's completely detrimental to wear it.
As explained by John Perkins in newsletter #15:
"In KCD the seeming sloppy strikes are thrown with a full connection of the body all the way down to the feet with full dropping force. This is why we have a great deal of trouble practicing on each other with power even when wearing fist helmets with neck braces or professional football helmets. We must pull the drop slap strikes on the human targets and mix the attacks with strikes to moving dummy targets. At full speed they can get a bit dicey. In most cases, only the more developed students can be relied upon not to accidentally strike full power into the helmet of the armored fighters."
"The boxer's block, with the palm toward the face and only an inch away, was only meant to be used with big soft boxing gloves, which act as cushions. Without the gloves, your own hands would only serve to hit you in the head as the opponent's punch comes barreling through."
-Attack Proof
Aside from that, what purpose does it serve you to learn how to strike while your hands are protected by gloves, only to condition your mind so that in a real fight, positioning your hands the same way will likely cause you to break your own bones?
"Unless you're attacked in the shower or on the beach, you'll never need to kick barefoot. Wearing sturdy shoes changes the dynamics of your kicks and effectively puts a hammer at the end of your feet. You should always practice with them on."
-Attack Proof
Sport Fighting vs. Survival Fighting on the Ground

In competition, when one fighter is on the ground and the other is standing, the fighter on the ground will often go into a position known as the open guard as opposed to the closed or half guard. The open guard is basically any position where a standing opponent is in front of your legs in some fashion.
The closed guard is when the bottom man has his legs wrapped around the top man's waist. The half guard is when the bottom man has his legs wrapped around one of the top man's legs, usually as a result of losing control of the full guard position. For the purposes of this section, we will only be dealing with the open guard.
As utilized in competition, the open guard is a defensive posture intended to keep the standing attacker from either passing the legs to get the mount or raining down punches in the form of what is referred to as "ground and pound". Ground and pound has been done both standing as well as from the mount position. The defensive idea of the open guard is to put your feet on the attacker's hip, or sometimes shoulder, arm or chest to push him back. Occasionally, it is used in a striking manner as well.
From our standpoint, what they do is morally and legally sound for competitive fighting as we feel anything more would be excessive and possibly grounds for imprisonment. We only have a problem when these practices are espoused as viable self defense methods. Understand something, we are only concerned with survival fighting and are not playing games because what we do is not for sport. We are not the jump in the ring and man up "mano y mano" guys. We are the people that are concerned with protecting ourselves on the way to the car, in the shopping mall or after work if something unfortunately goes wrong.
Here's the problem. If you get into a serious fight and you hit the ground while your opponent is still standing, I can assure you that unless you are extremely lucky and not facing a determined attacker, the standing attacker will not punch you or try to pass your guard to get into the mount position. If you read police reports of physical assaults that have occurred here in Chicago, I'm pretty certain that you would find out more people have been hospitalized or killed by being viciously stomped than any other method of hand to hand fighting out there, trained tactics or not.
He or they will practically attempt to stomp you into oblivion. John Perkins once recommended watching the movie Menace to Society. The reason was because at the end of the movie there was a fight scene that displayed exactly what happens when you hit the ground and you're facing a determined attacker.
Though perfectly suitable for the ring, the open guard methodology can potentially get you disfigured or killed on the street for several reasons. It is employed by the prone fighter in a defensive nature in which the fighter doesn't move his sphere as his root is usually immobilized. Equally as detrimental, the prone attacker usually doesn't wait long enough to allow the standing attacker to enter in a manner where he is so close that he can utilize the power of his legs while on the ground. Therefore, often times out of fear of getting mounted or punched, he'll overextend beyond his sphere. In addition to being barefooted, the kicks, even if not intended to simply push, are generally weak because they lose the power of their muscles, tendons, ligaments and momentum as their legs have already been fully extended.
No one's arm strength should be able to match your leg strength. Nevertheless, in grappling you see leg locks and ankle control methods working where people sidestep each other's legs to attain a so-called dominant position referred to as side control. This is only occurring because they are cooperating by not moving with real intent. To be fair however, on rare occasion some competitive fighters have knocked their attackers out with heel kicks from the ground, but usually it doesn't happen because of the lack of intent to kill! They are usually trying to get the attacker away from them or set them up for some type of sweep or submission. A lot of times it works, at least in competition.
On the street, if you're on the ground you had better utilize all the power you have from all angles and most importantly maintain a mobile root. For an idea of how you need to move, look at Demo #8: Ground fighting with a Knife on the Attack Proof website. To the initiated this is obvious, but in reality you will need to literally kick with every square ounce of your might in an unrestrained manner as Lt. Col Al is holding back tremendously for the obvious purpose of not severely injuring the training partners.

"Is That KCD Stuff Real?" You'd Better Believe It.

Although the overall response to the demos on the site was overwhelmingly positive, I've spoken with several skeptics who seemed to not realize that the video clips were not real or were offended at the integrity of the attacks as they meticulously dissected every detail. In a lot of cases, I could see where they were coming from but the truth of the matter is that they simply don't understand how dangerous it is to do demos in that manner because they can't feel or see the power that is being generated. Although it is blatantly stated that the KCD strikes were pulled, a skeptical mind would likely ignore that and focus on several things which I'll explain here.
1. It appears that the strikes are merely slaps for several reasons. One is that they are open handed, thus creating an optical illusion. Also, when you develop loosenes, at a highly refined level it will almost appear at times to the uninitiated that you lack power unless they are on the receiving end. Even though full body unity is being utilized by Al, John and Mike, they are purposely either not penetrating at all, or purposely not going beyond the limits of the attacker's looseness as a way to avoid injury. Again, all kicks and strikes were pulled.
2. As the grappler is shooting, there appears to be a lag time in his movements. Sorry, this is strictly because he knows if he comes in at full speed and gets hit, the price paid will not be worth any demo in the world. I don't think this was a conscious effort, it was actually his body's recognition that it was more important to protect itself. I can tell you from first hand experience that it feels almost like you are hitting a brick wall when someone is properly rooted. The faster you run into the wall, the greater the injury. However, the integrity of the shoot doesn't matter and that's something I'll deal with in Level 5.
3. The knife demos are not how we actually move with a knife, it was only a demo to show what happens when a determined, even if untrained, attacker goes berserk with a knife. Personally, I agree with the assessment that it would have been far more effective to pull a concealed knife after the grappler attacked, not before hand.
4. The standing kicker appears to be off balance. In reality, he is actually using the walls to balance himself in the same fashion discussed by John in newsletter # 27. Just as well, dropping energy is utilized either vertically or while moving forward.
Without any real contact with a certified KCD instructor who has the control to move with you at high speeds and give you a feel for the system without injury, the only way you can truly appreciate the power is by lying on the ground and kicking an inhuman object like a lying (supine) heavy bag with all of your might. In a literal sense, when you adapt an "attack the attacker" philosophy and move with full body unity, using centrifugal force at reflexive speed, the power of your legs is the equivalent of a set of swinging sledgehammers with the intent to incapacitate and bust bones. As Lt. Col Al says on the Attack Proof Companion Part 2 DVD, "We don't kick at people, we kick through people."
John Perkins speaks on the 2003 Seminar Video about how he kicked a guy's nose off of his face with his police shoes as the guy attempted to wrestle him. In light of the power you can generate with your legs, the way I see it, the guy was extremely lucky because if John didn't miss he would've easily broken the guy's neck.
Throughout the remainder of this newsletter, I will be presenting emails that I've received from Lt. Col. Al that support my arguments. This email reinforces the previous sections and applies to this one as well.
"The truth is that in a real fight when people mean to take you out, by the time you try to set something up it's already over. Everything they [competitive fighters] do is set up either from a position of dominance or from some sort of stance. This tips off many of the things that they will do from the start, which would be fine if people cooperated with you when the fight goes down. Remember, at the end of the day what these folks are doing is a sport which is fine as long as they have the understanding that when people are trying to kill you the fight takes on an entirely different dynamic. This is especially true of boxing, which is why as with all sport fighting there are only a hand full of people with the physical talent to do it and actually earn a living at it."

Self-defense: For the Young Only?

"With regard to boxing, or any sport fighting for that matter, think of this. The average Pro-Boxer probably fights over 100 fights before they enter the pro ranks. They've probably had a highly successful amateur career and have probably fought in international competition or the Armed Forces before turning pro. Out of this, there are maybe a couple hundred ranked boxers per boxing organization in the world. Just given the law of averages, probably 50% of these guys have losing records and another 30-40% are just above .500, with the best boxers making up the last 10-20% of fighters. Out of that number maybe, and that's a big "maybe", 1-3% actually earn enough money as boxers to sustain themselves. While I don't have any hard numbers on this, I'm probably not far off the mark. For sports like wrestling and other grappling arts which probably have many more practitioners world wide, the number of folks who can't earn a living at it are greater, especially since the money is also considerably less than in boxing."
"Why is this the case? I believe it is because even within their own sports, such techniques are difficult to make work since people move in a [i.e., relatively within the dynamics of a given art] uncooperative manner so that only the most physically talented and dedicated fighters can advance. This is also contingent on their ability to remain healthy throughout their careers, but alas, such things are a young man's game and in time, no matter how skilled they are, because it is a sport which relies on tremendous physical talent as opposed to principles, even the mightiest of them at some point can no longer fight at a high level."
"Do you think that all of the great boxers in history had to give up the sport due to a lack of knowledge? Does anyone believe that the great boxers of old suddenly forgot how to fight? Does anyone believe that the masters of the various sportive martial arts disciplines forgot how to use their techniques? No way! So then why don't you see them anymore in competition? It's because they're just too old for that sort of thing. Why? Because it's a sport."
"However, and I want to be clear about this, given their knowledge of fighting and their age, in a real fight I'm sure it would be an entirely different matter and a line you may not want to cross with many of the great fighters of old."
In contrast, within internal arts such as KCD, Tai Chi, et. al or some of the arts based on WWII combatives, as long as the practitioners maintain pretty much their normal level of physical fitness, they can continue to improve as long as they continue to practice the sound principles of close combat. While this may sound paradoxical when you think about it, it makes sense and may go a long way in explaining why the ancient masters of the fighting arts in various cultures seemed to be revered as possessing almost supernatural fighting abilities."
"Could it be that because their mastery of the principles of combat were so great that their fighting skill transcended not only the physical abilities of their opponents, but their own physical limitations as well? I believe the answer is an obvious yes and explains why internal art practitioners continue to improve with age whereas external-only practitioners suffer from the law of diminishing returns, i.e., because they are so reliant on their physical attributes, as their bodies diminish, so too do their "physical abilities".
to be continued....
Next Level: Disregarding Vital Targets

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Ken has a KCD training group in the Chicago area you may want to investigate.]